‘Key tests must be met’ before Hackney Council’s health chief endorses £587m cost-cutting NEL STP plans

Cllr Jonathan McShane

Cllr Jonathan McShane - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council’s health boss has refused to sign up to NHS England’s “secretive” Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) until he gets concrete details on its £587m cost-cutting implications.

But a spokesman for the North East London (NEL) STP has told the Gazette bosses “have just not got to that point” and in fact have no details to share.

The proposal is to divide England into 44 “footprints”, which would see Hackney’s healthcare linked with seven other local authority areas.

The vision is to improve services and health in the face of an ageing and growing population – while at the same time saving money.

Part of the plan is to “reduce the burden” on NHS services through promoting prevention and self-care, by addressing issues like childhood obesity and smoking. “Motivating people to take ownership of their health is crucial to our system vision,” the draft plan states.

Cllr McShane – who wrote to health secretary Jeremy Hunt last year complaining he had been kept in the dark over what has been dubbed a “secret plan for cuts” – said: “It feels as though the focus is entirely on tackling the money. If we look at some of the assumptions in the STP we think it doesn’t add up. It’s not realistic.

“People say to me that the council must refuse to sign up to the STP. We aren’t very clear what it would actually mean to sign up to the STP but what we have said is: even if you can show us what it means to sign up, we aren’t going to sign up until certain key tests are met.”

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He is calling for “proper” consultation with local people in which the town hall can spell out the implications of the NEL STP; for plans the council is already rolling out to be respected; and to know what pooling services with other boroughs would mean for Homerton Hospital’s pathology lab.

Hackney Council has no idea what the implications could be of not signing up.

A spokesman for the NEL STP refused to tell the Gazette what they might be, but denied there would be any financial penalties.

“I’m not going to start speculating on what-ifs and what mights,” he said.

“We share the same ambition and we are working collaboratively to achieve the aim.

“Detail will emerge as and when, and we will fully consult and engage with the public, as we are kind of starting to do now.

“We have reached the end of the beginning if you like, in submitting a draft. It is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.”

He has “no idea” about the timescale for the plans, but said the NEL STP is still “expecting feedback” on its draft – which was due early this year.